I’ve noticed recently an increasing incidence of incorrect charges from many companies and businesses. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed or experienced this — I only notice the errors because I pour over everything in details and examine all my receipts, something that I know many people don’t do or stop doing out of frustration — but the evidence is mounting where my consumer purchases and relationships are concerned, that there’s an obvious advantage being taken of me at cash registers locally (Southern California), bank statements (higher fees for the same services charged without any announcement, or, worse, fees charged for their own accounting errors), an annual creep upward in costs for everything, anything.
Even from COSTCO, the very same items I’ve been purchasing every month for years now cost many hundreds of percentages more than they did even last year. For instance, a package of two bottles of household antiseptic alcohol purchased from COSTCO used to cost “$0.97” and now it costs about $2.00. I wrote an email complaint to COSTCO about their — to my read — outrageous price increases recently and I received what was the nastiest of all possible responses from any business about anything. I’d stop shopping at COSTCO altogether if I wasn’t already reliant on their bulk pricing, but, point being here, I’d surely love to find an alternative, at least for price comparisons purposes.
I do know that COSTCO has been in the news as being a pro-Kerry and DNC funder. Whether that has anything to do with their noticable raise in intolerance for consumer issues, I have no idea, but all I can write here is that it’s my experience that the COSTCO membership and monthly shopping trips are not nearly as good an overall experience as they used to be.
And that’s just one story about one retailer.
Basic banking checks printed with my name and address and account number — nothing fancy, no upgrades, no foil embellishments, no patterns or images or specializations, just the basic bank check for bill paying use — was $8.00 the last time I needed to renew my order and now the bank attempts to, without notice or announcement of costs involved at the time of order, spring a charge nearing $20.00 for the same product. Not like I’ve moved or asked them to do anything differently, just a reorder of the most basic check print avaialable, and, presto, bank attempts a charge that is so unacceptable as to be robbery, and, worse, no announcement at the time of purchase that they had robbery in mind, much less any change in price for a reorder of the same product they charged $8.00 for just a while ago.
Another business I have an account with cashes those monthly checks of mine for their monthly invoices — in full, mailed the same dates of every month as before. But, last three months the company has attempted to assess “late fees” for each month for the very same checks mailed to them on the very same dates for the very same amount (“payment in full” on the checks for every monthly invoice payment sent by me, and cashed by them).
That company is DELL, should anyone want to take notice. As of this date, DELL hasn’t resolved their accounting “problem” and seems to think I owe them several hundreds of dollars for their accounting “problem.” As with DELL’s technical “support” line, good luck ever having a meaningful discussion over the telephone about accounting issues, if and when you can ever get someone to actually answer your call without waiting thirty minutes listening to sales pitches for products from a company you’ll never purchase from again — an uneasy decision arrived at only after the threshold of modest satisfaction with a purchasing experince has long since passed.
I wonder if businesses realize how badly they denigrate customers when they fail to ensure sound billing policies and to provide an easy interactive process for to discuss billing and product difficulties through to a resolution. Customer “service” representatives without any capacity to resolve problems of any/all kinds do not a happy shopping experience make, but it does tend to ensure that many first-time customers won’t be returning.
Also, a local pharmacy rang up an order a week or so ago on my behalf, which I paid and then went about my way. Later, home that evening, I looked over the receipt, thinking it was a bit high compared to what I’d anticipated, and the pharmacy charged me ten dollars more for a generic medication refill than they normally do, and which is incorrect. The pharmacy in question happens to be within a grocery store outlet that has received local focus for overcharging customers on individual items, but, unless you confront them when they do this, you go away having been cheated at the register. Most people go away cheated because they don’t examine their receipts, and some people are too timid to confront the store’s “errors” — in my experience, the store is aggressive when confronted about their “errors” and you have to be an assertive consumer to make them abide by their own store policy (proudly displayed in the store): “if we charge you an incorrect price for an item, we will give you a refund for the full price charged and two of the items free”.
I’ve only once, among many experiences of being the recipient of this one store’s “errors,” asked then to honor their store policy and I’m lucky, even when I confront them about a noticable “error” at the cash register, to just get a refund for the overcharge. Never a refund for the full item, never a second item free, as per the policy. So, they make it uncomfortable for consumers to ask the store to honor their own policy, much less to refrain from making “errors” at the cash register.
Point is, businesses usually regarded as reliable and trustworthy, locally and nationwide (in my case, the pharmacy is local, the other two businesses I’ve mentioned here are not, are located in other states), have either become far more badly and recklessly managed, or, are managing to wage a cheat war against consumers who may not notice or often, when they notice as I have, don’t complain. Or worse, as is also in my case, when you complain, you get treated even worse, don’t get a refund, receive a nasty email, if any response at all. Worse, they refuse to resolve their mistakes, insist on assigning damage to a hapless consumer.
Me, I’m complaining. I don’t care for cheats and I don’t have a lot with which others can cheat with — point is, there is never enough in my estimation that anyone can cheat with — and, I’m wondering about these particular businesses now, why they are doing what they’re doing and why there’s no offer to resolve offered by any of them, such that a consumer is left to write a letter that they don’t take seriously.
But, question to me is, why are these cheats taking place? Do they represent a general cheat trend in our business climate? If so, why? Not like these are new relationships for me — each business I’ve mentioned here is one that I’ve been involved with as a consumer for many years — and I now wonder, have they always been cheating me, or, is this a new behavior? If new, again I ask, why is it taking place?
Another thing — very disappointing here — is that I purchased Symantec’s Norton Anti-Viral program in 2003 (original disc, annual subscription), that I then renewed for another year’s online subscription for 2004 through 2005 and only a few months ago (renewed in July 2004).
I’ve been running automatic updates for the program every day, several times a day, as a daily process and the program is never disengaged when I am accessing the Internet. Two days ago I performed an online scan from Trend MICRO’s Housecall Online, just out of safety’s sake, and everything was fine and alright.
Yesterday, however, Symantec provided one of those scary, red tagged “warning” popup alerts during my internet use, that my system had come into contact with a viral program. I shut down, I updated again, I scanned and there it was…a viral program to quarantine. Fine, quarantined it was. Then Symantec advised I “still had two viral programs that were not able to be quarantined.”
I sought online Symantec help at that point and engaged their online scan: no viral programs, no trojans. I wrote to Symantec about the conflicts: desktop program announces two viral programs not able to be quarantined, online scan announces no presence of viral programs or trojans.
Symantec’s “customer service” wrote to me, just yesterday, that the product I had purchased from them (just this past July, 2004) was “discontinued and no longer supported.” I wrote back, “but Symantec is advising me that my viral definitions are ‘up to date’ and that there are no further anti-viral definitions needed.”
Symantec didn’t respond to that but sent me an email that they were “issuing a refund” for my July purchase (not in my account yet, as I write this), with no further explanation.
Either their products are viable or they are not. For a business that is based upon, entirely based upon, selling “online security” goods and services, they aren’t, in fact, selling reliable security products. In other words, they offer security products that are reliable, or, they offer products that aren’t secure, and aren’t, therefore, reliable for the purpose they’re presented and advertised.
What peeves me to no end about this case where Symantec is concerned is that I renewed a service just this past July, that that service has been running since last July in what I was sold as being a “secure” delivery, that I’ve relied on their product for security, been continually advised by their product that I was secure (“your anti-viral definitions are up to date and your program does not need any further updates”, to that effect, or, that I did need updates, which I downloaded whenever prompted)…the point is that I relied on their product to be advising me accurately, and upon which I acted accordingly, only to be advised by an empty e-mail message AFTER a hostile aggression had been made upon my system, that their product was, in fact, NOT “up to date” and otherwise “no longer supported.”
Either they sell security products or they are selling fantasy. In my case, they appear to have sold me fantasy in July 2004 and only now by way of my potentially damaging encounter with a hostile program on the internet learn that their program was not reliable.
Symantec never, not once, wrote to me (and how many other customers) that their product purchased July 2004 is now no longer “supported” and has been “discontinued,” much less an offer of apology, some minor coupon for to make nice, nothing.
If I had not encountered this hostile program on the interent yesterday (also since yesterday resolved, removed, no longer present on my system), I’d have never written to Symantec about the technical problem and continued on — probably until July 2005 — using and relying upon their Anti-Viral program that was not, in fact, an anti-viral delivery.
If anyone’s ever had a harddrive infected with a worm of one extreme or another, as I have a few years ago, you know the expense involved. In my case, it wasn’t only limited to my time and annoyance, but it cost me a harddrive. I had to reformat the harddrive and then replace the useless reformatted harddrive that wouldn’t reload an OS and then donate the whole thing to charity and start all over. Everything I had associated with that system became a harbinger of that nasty worm program, and everything had to be destroyed afterward.
An expensive lesson that it’s smart and best to just purchase a reliable anti-viral program and then keep it engaged and keep it current. Which I assumed I had done.
And now John Kerry’s droaning on and on about how he’s better and how others are worse. I read about the Left ranting about how bad America is “under Bush” and then I hear how bad it can be under Kerry.
Kerry’s frequent and insistent use of the prefix, “mis,” is like the buzz of a mosquito about to bite. It’s my blood, thankyewverymuch, and you can’t have it, at least not when you loiter around me without my consent and then suck up to me and deliver unknown infections with a pinch. Beware of droning, biting, tall, insect-like, long-necked buzzers, particularly if they are fond of the prefix, “mis.”
As in, mislead. Mistake. Misanthrope. Miserable, mislabelled mismash.
About droning, I don’t like even visiting shops, organizations, buying products from manufacturers, or just going for any consumer association with companies — or candidates (who are, when you think about it, asking you to devote a great deal of personal resources to them based upon nothing more than a demand) — that support a delivery that brings harms to people, is insulting to a person’s or a family’s values (“TIDE” and “CREST Toothpaste” are causing many people concern lately, to name a few), and that’s not even bringing Hollywood fare into things — products that deliver into your personal environment issues that most Americans can well live without, don’t want to watch and listen to, find so objectionable as to do without without a second glance.
So, offense is taken at and about businesses that don’t extend appreciation for a consumer’s time and troubles and money, not to mention products that deliver harm and insult. And, overpricing, overcharging, assigning inaccurate charges to some accounting process, are all the delivery of insult to a consumer.
I particularly don’t like “errors” at the cash register and surprises of costs and charges and new charges and hidden fees and otherwise charges that no one can ever guess about or anticipate upfront and are never published until they’ve already taken your money and you find out later just what they had in mind: excessive and unannounced charges.
Publish the prices, let consumers make selections and their own decisions, or, not, but the tweakings that take place at a moment’s notice without informed consent by a consumer at the point of purchase, well, that’s just theft.
Profits aren’t worth certain wrongs. Whatever happened to “we’re sorry for your inconvenience, let us try to correct the problem for you”? No, instead, lately, I get cheated silently and harassed by businesses who aggress upon the patience of the consumer, much as does a John Kerry speech broadcast aggess upon my patience as I try to type this.
Why not try customer service assistance instead?
Whatever happened to, “how may I help you?”
And what’s wrong with either, or, both.
Update: I’ve been offered a ten dollar refund from the local pharmacy and my bank reversed their surprise charges and then offered me the check reorder gratis (“for free”).
No explanations or offers to assist from Symantec, COSTCO and/or DELL. I’ll be the first to write a helpful, supportive promotion for any/all of those should any/all of them chose to improve their issues, to change. Not holding my breath.